According to Cone, understandings of the cross and lynching tree can mutually inform one another and explain how events of trauma and injustice can still inspire hope for the African American community. Here he turns his attention to two symbols that dominated not only the spiritual world but also the daily life of African Americans in the twentieth century. In their inextricable tie, he finds both the terror and hope that governed life under violent racism as well as potent symbols of the African American past and present in the United States. The Cross and the Lynching Tree is a powerful and painful song for hope in our dance with mortality—a song Cone courageously has led for over forty years! James H. This year he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
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Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Other editions. Enlarge cover. Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. A landmark in the conversation about race and religion in America.
In this powerful new work, theologian James H. Cone explores these symbols and their interconnection in the history and so A landmark in the conversation about race and religion in America. Cone explores these symbols and their interconnection in the history and souls of black folk.
Both the cross and the lynching tree represent the worst in human beings and at the same time a thirst for life that refuses to let the worst determine our final meaning. While the lynching tree symbolized white power and black death, the cross symbolizes divine power and black life, God overcoming the power of sin and death. For African Americans, the image of Jesus, hung on a tree to die, powerfully grounded their faith that God was with them, even in the suffering of the lynching era.
In a work that spans social history, theology, and cultural studies, Cone explores the message of the spirituals and the power of the blues; the passion and the engaged vision of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Wells, and the witness of black artists, writers, preachers, and fighters for justice. And he remembers the victims, especially the 5, who perished during the lynching period. Through their witness he contemplates the greatest challenge of any Christian theology to explain how life can be made meaningful in the face of death and injustice.
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Should I, as an atheist, expect to find an objectionable degree of blind religiosity within the pages of this book? I intend to read it. I'd just like to be forewarned. Karen No, not blind religiosity. You don't need to be a Christian believer to appreciate this book, you just need to be able to take Christian theology seriously as a subject worth thinking about in relation to human history.
See 1 question about The Cross and the Lynching Tree…. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 4. Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Start your review of The Cross and the Lynching Tree. Mar 12, E. As one of the Associate Pastors at Rolling Hills Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas, one of my responsibilities was the bulletin boards in the hallways. I don't know that anyone gave me that job, so much as I took it on.
I really enjoyed putting up various kinds of bulletin boards. I rarely was only informational. My favourite bulletin board I designed, and one I hung up also at Royal As one of the Associate Pastors at Rolling Hills Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas, one of my responsibilities was the bulletin boards in the hallways. Then, around it I hung full-color pictures and texts. The pictures included famous artistic renderings of the crucifixion but also many modern ones.
I also included an image of a black man being lynched. The texts were song lyrics and poems. Some of the traditional Good Friday hymns were included and poems directly addressing the cross.
I also hung some critical modern poems. Plus, I included "Strange Fruit. In when I was organizing the Good Friday service at Cathedral of Hope, I drew on this bulletin board and instead of the normal Tenebrae readings, read from these selected poems, including "Strange Fruit" and "American Triangle. I don't know that any book ever gave me that idea. I created that bulletin board before I had read James Cone's God of the Oppressed or anything similar.
And lately I've been reading a lot of books on the cross and atonement, as I prepare for a class we will have on that topic later this year at First Central. It is at once a stunning and a damning book. At times I wanted to repent for being white. But it is also inspiring of hope and reconciliation. It is a brief book that succintly discusses the connection between the cross and the lynching tree and, through that, the power of the cross in the black religious experience.
The first chapter discusses that black experience. The second chapter is a damning discussion of Reinhold Niebuhr, standing in for white, liberal theologians who have ignored the lynching tree and the role of black experience in developing their American theologies.
Cone likes Niebuhr and has nice things to say about him, but he also exposes his blinders. Niebuhr was the great Christian ethicist of his day, and he never addressed lynching, despite its on-going prevalence and the orchestrated campaigns against it.
The next chapter is an interpretation of the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. Then Cone turns to the black literary tradition and reads the works of Countee Cullen, W.
DuBois, Langston Hughes, and others as theological source material. This is the best chapter in the book and its own amazing contribution to the history of American theology. The final full chapter explores the experience of black women and entertains the critique of the cross posed by womanist theologians, particularly Delores Williams.
I liked this chapter and Cone's narration of the history of black women, such as Fannie Lou Hamer. I do think that the critique of Williams and others deserved a more developed response, however. The thrust of his response is that in the black religious experience the cross is not experienced as a justification for suffering but as an empowerment to fight for one's liberation. That seems a little too simple.
The epilogue wraps ups the book and Cone's entire theological career. It seems that this will be his last book, though he does not say it. In this epilogue he opens up some possibilities to interpreting the cross that I have not quite encountered before. I will treat of them in a separate post. I have one, and only one, critique of the book. In chapter three he writes about Mamie Till Bradley and her powerful, confrontational response to white supremacy when her son Emmett Till was lynched.
I immediately thought of Judy Shepherd and her powerful response to homophobia after Matthew's death. In the book Cone mentions lynchings of non-blacks, but he never mentions the lynchings of queer persons. I know that generally these lynchings do not occur as major public spectacles and are definitely against the law, qualities which make them different. But they do exist in their own fashion and should invite their own theological reflection.
Cone himself writes that we must have the imagination necessary to "relate the message of the cross to one's own social reality.
Which is all the more reason I was surprised by his silence on queer lynchings. I know one purpose of this book was to offer hope and healing for American's racism, but doesn't this recent and on-going form of lynching deserve at least something? Is Cone, then, guilty of a similar failure to Niebuhr? How powerful an impact Cone could have, as the leading black theologian, to make that connection and confront the homophobia that entraps many African-Americans.
View 2 comments. Jan 20, Amy Hughes rated it it was amazing Shelves: justice , non-fiction , theology. As a theologian I need to be able to explain for the sake of myself, my students, and the church why white supremacy is fundamentally anti-Christ. While there are many ways to do this, I'm grateful to Cone for helping me to do this and to understand the cross better.
This book is easily one of the best theology books I've read in the last 5 years. I'm looking forward to picking it up again this semester since I'm assigning it in my Trinity and Christology class. Maybe I'll be able to get through As a theologian I need to be able to explain for the sake of myself, my students, and the church why white supremacy is fundamentally anti-Christ.
Review of James H. Cone’s The Cross and the Lynching Tree
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The Cross and the Lynching Tree
Martin Luther, in his Heidelberg Disputation, first elucidated the paradox between the presence and hiddenness of God on the cross. In this book, James Cone recognizes this profound paradox of the cross and argues that the cross ought to serve as the paradigmatic symbol through which one can talk about being both black and Christian in America. In The Cross and the Lynching Tree, Cone does this systematically and reflectively, simultaneously looking backwards and forwards, offering a resting place for black America to leave its burdens and providing a path for a better, more united America. Cone asserts that blacks, primarily but not only in the South, faced the ever-present threat of death by lynching.